Have you inherited your family’s photo collection? Is it overwhelming your life? What can you do to manage these photos, and how do you deal with the emotional baggage tied to all these things?
Martie McNabb, a personal historian and founder of Show & Tales and Memories Out of the Box, has helped hundreds of people deal with these issues. “It’s sentimental, it’s memories, it’s the stories that people get deeply attached to,” said McNabb. “You can’t keep a house full of stuff, and you can’t keep every photo for multiple generations. What will you do with it for the future as well?” “I encourage people to make choices, just like a museum or a documentary film maker ends up curating what they keep…. That stuff that you let go of, at the very least, you can have a photo or make a video, or even make a book about these objects, saving and sharing the story while letting the physical clutter go.”
It can be too much to focus on details at the very beginning. Set up three boxes:
- A “Keep” box, for those items you absolutely must keep;
- A “Maybe” box, if you don’t know for sure but think the photos might be important;
- And a “Toss” box, for multiple duplicates of photos, blurry images, and unremarkable landscape pictures.
Photo Curating Tips
Here are some key takeaway points from the video conversation with Gail Rubin, The Doyenne of Death®.
- To help pare down what you keep, save three to five of the best pictures from trips and special events.
- Organize the “Keepers” chronologically. “We all think, compare, and understand our lives chronologically, generally speaking,” said McNabb. “Don’t get into ‘Is this 1955 or 1956?’ An era range is fine.”
- Scanning is not the answer to everything. It can be expensive and time-consuming. Ask who are these for? Who’s the audience? Who’s going to inherit them? Who’s going to appreciate this?
- You can recycle albums that have no personal information like names, birthdates, anything that could be used for identity theft. Shred items with personal details.
- Old yearbooks can be sent to alumni associations for universities or schools. Sometimes small historical societies, museums or libraries might want them.
Photo managers, professionals who can help you tackle what can be a seemingly enormous task can also be hired to get the job done.
Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist and The Doyenne of Death®, is an award-winning speaker, author, podcaster, and coordinator of the Before I Die New Mexico Festival (www.BeforeIDieFestivals.com). She is also a Certified Funeral Celebrant. Her four books on planning ahead for end-of-life issues – A Good Goodbye, Kicking the Bucket List, Hail and Farewell, and Before I Die Festival in a Box™ – are available through Amazon and her website, www.AGoodGoodbye.com.